Doctors call for better pelvic floor health education ‘throughout women’s lives’

Just over one in five (22%) women in the UK exercise regularly to keep their pelvic floor healthy, according to a new survey.

More than half (55%) are not currently doing pelvic floor exercises or have never done them, while 23% said they don’t know how to do them, according to the survey.

If a person’s pelvic floor muscles are weak, they may suffer from incontinence, or if the muscles are too tight, people may find it difficult to completely empty their bladder.

There are exercises that can be done to strengthen these muscles, which can help the bladder function well.

Leading physicians have said that there should be a “life course” approach to helping women maintain good pelvic floor health.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) said girls should be taught about pelvic floor health from an early age and receive support throughout their lives.

The new survey, shared with the PA news agency, also found that around 60% of women have at least one symptom of poor pelvic health, such as B. Urinary incontinence and frequent need to pee.

The RCOG said pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms could have a “huge impact” on a person’s quality of life, and women had shared stories of how symptoms had prevented them from participating in work, engaging in social life, their relationships and their lives Work-impaired The outcome had a negative impact on her mental health and well-being.

Meanwhile, more than half (53%) of women who experienced symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction did not see a healthcare professional, according to Opinium’s survey of 2,000 British women, commissioned by the RCOG.

Of these, 39% thought their symptoms were normal and 21% were too embarrassed.

More than two-thirds (69%) of all respondents said they had never spoken to anyone in the NHS about their pelvic floor health.

The survey was released as the RCOG introduced a new policy position on the care and support women should receive.

The new policy paper contains five recommendations for improving care through education and access to information.

This should be ‘tailored’ and provided from an early age and throughout a woman’s ‘reproductive life cycle’, i.e. during and after pregnancy and menopause.

Women should be given information about how maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise and reducing or quitting smoking, and practicing pelvic floor exercises can prevent and reduce symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, the RCOG said.

Healthcare workers should have the knowledge and confidence to talk to women about good pelvic floor health, she added.

And any woman with symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction should have timely access to support and, if needed, healthcare professionals.

The RCOG also called for an online hub where women could access quality information.

dr Ranee Thakar, President of RCOG, said: “Our research shows that too few women are given information about pelvic floor health or the risk factors that can increase the likelihood of pelvic floor dysfunction. It also found that many women either don’t know or are too embarrassed to ask for help for symptoms that can really impact their lives.

“We call for improved provision of information and education throughout women’s lives.

“Every healthcare professional has a role to play in fighting stigma and empowering women to protect their pelvic health, improve symptoms they may be developing and know when to seek help by making every interaction count .

“In all four nations, women should have access to support to maintain good pelvic floor health after pregnancy and childbirth.

“We welcome NHS England’s commitment to improving perinatal pelvic floor health and hope to work with the NHS to ensure all women have access to quality pelvic floor health information. Efforts must also focus on eliminating inequalities in access to health information, education and care.”

Emma Crookes, a member of the RCOG Women’s Network, who suffered from incontinence during pregnancy, said: “When I started leaking urine at a fairly early stage of pregnancy in my 20s, I was shocked and embarrassed and wanted to hide.

“I’ve been told by friends, the media and even my GP that it’s perfectly normal to have children.

Emma Crookes said pelvic floor muscle training and weeks of personalized exercise resulted in improvement in incontinence symptoms (Handout/PA)
Emma Crookes said pelvic floor muscle training and weeks of personalized exercise resulted in improvement in incontinence symptoms (RCOG Handout/PA)

“It was only through a chance meeting with a specialist that I had the courage to go back to my GP and demand better help.

“When I was referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapist and urogynecology service, I was suffering from a herniated vaginal wall and stress urinary incontinence.

“Through pelvic floor muscle training and weeks of intense personalized exercise and support, my symptoms improved and I was able to return to my usual routine.”

Last year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said girls should learn pelvic floor exercises as part of the school curriculum by the age of 12.

Nice said girls aged 12 to 17 should receive classes on the pelvic floor, including its anatomy, possibly as a complement to classes on sex and relationships.

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